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Cranberry retired Marine overwhelmed by home makeover

| Friday, Aug. 24, 2012, 4:39 p.m.
Tribune-Review
Purple Heart recipient Marine Staff Sergeant Joshua Caskey and his family react to seeing their home for the first time after a five-day major home makeover on Friday, August 24, 2012 in Cranberry. The family returned from vacation at Nemacolin to a crowd of neighbors, friends, Marines and family gathered to celebrate the unveiling of the house, which had improvements both expected and unexpected by the family of six. Stephanie Strasburg | Tribune-Review
Tribune-Review
Marines line up outside of the house of Purple Heart recipient Marine Staff Sergeant Joshua Caskey and his family, in anticipation of their return to their remodeled home on Friday, August 24, 2012 in Cranberry. Through various donations of labor and materials the Caskey's house went through a five-day major home makeover while they were away at Nemacolin on vacation. Stephanie Strasburg | Tribune-Review
Tribune-Review
Ryan Zirpoli, 2, of Cranberry, helps hold a 'welcome home' banner while waiting for Purple Heart recipient Marine Staff Sergeant Joshua Caskey and his family to return to their remodeled home on Friday, August 24, 2012 in Cranberry. A crowd of neighbors, friends, Marines, and family gathered to celebrate the unveiling of the Caskey's house, which went through a five-day major home improvement while they were away at Nemacolin on vacation. Stephanie Strasburg | Tribune-Review
Tribune-Review
The children of Purple Heart recipient Marine Staff Sergeant Joshua Caskey play for the first time on their new swing set after returning home from vacation to a remodeled house on Friday, August 24, 2012 in Cranberry. A crowd of neighbors, friends, Marines, and family gathered to celebrate the unveiling of the Caskey's house, which went through a five-day major home improvement while they were away at Nemacolin. Stephanie Strasburg | Tribune-Review
Tribune-Review
Purple Heart recipient Marine Staff Sergeant Joshua Caskey and his wife Kelly look at the new flagpole in their front yard, one of the many improvements they returned home to at the unveiling of their improved home on Friday, August 24, 2012 in Cranberry. A crowd of neighbors, friends, Marines, and family gathered to celebrate the unveiling of the Caskey's house, which went through a five-day major home improvement while they were away at Nemacolin for vacation. Stephanie Strasburg | Tribune-Review
Tribune-Review
Marines are seen through a Marine themed motorcycle wheel listening to the father of Purple Heart recipient Marine Staff Sergeant Joshua Caskey give a blessing on Friday, August 24, 2012 in Cranberry. Jerry Caskey, 70, of Pond Township, prayed for his son's home during a celebration of the culmination of a five-day home improvement blitz on the house, which was completed while the family was away on vacation. Stephanie Strasburg | Tribune-Review

Joshua Caskey returned home Friday from a family vacation to find his Cranberry home had been ripped apart and made over — inside and out — by fellow Marines, home contractors and friends.

“Oh, my,” the retired Marine Corps staff sergeant and Iraq veteran said in shock and tears when he saw the house, then pumped a fist in the air.

“I don't even know what to say. It's overwhelming in a good way. I appreciate everybody so much,” said Caskey, 31. “I think everyone out here deserves this, especially the ones who served.”

The Builders Association of Metropolitan Pittsburgh in partnership with the NFL Players Association selected Caskey as a recipient of its five-day “Blitz Improvement” program for homes.

Caskey retired from the Marine Corps in March after more than a decade of service and two tours of duty in Iraq. He survived a suicide bomb attack in June 2007 when a delivery driver infiltrated a combat outpost and detonated a truck just after Caskey had taken off his combat gear following a mission. He earned the Purple Heart. He still has shrapnel and pain in his back, some trouble with walking and hearing and suffered a brain injury, family said.

Caskey's younger brother, Marine Corps Sgt. Joseph Caskey, was killed in June 2010 in Afghanistan by a roadside bomb. Caskey and his brother grew up in West View.

Caskey, his wife and four children spent all week at Nemacolin Woodlands Resort, thanks to a donor's generosity, while a small army of volunteers and workers took apart his split-entry home and yard, refurbishing the interior and exterior. The builders association told Caskey and his family only that small repairs would be made to the home, built in 1979, while they were away.

They returned in a stretch limousine to find more than three dozen active-duty and retired Marines saluting them and more than 100 others waiting to see their reaction.

His wife and children — Brianna, 11; Josh Jr., 9; Faith, 4; and Alexander, who will be 2 in September — gasped when they went inside and saw new hardwood floors, a new kitchen and newly painted bedrooms.

“It's more amazing than we could ever imagine,” Kelly Caskey said.

Approximately 60 workers showed up each day to install flooring, bathrooms, a kitchen, exterior siding and garage doors.

They built a shed, expanded a back patio, painted the interior of the home and landscaped the front and back yards. Outdoor steps were made more accessible.

James Eichenlaub, executive director of the Builders Association, and Todd Klippa, president of TK Construction in North Fayette, oversaw the project. Nearly 100 businesses donated money, materials or labor. Klippa assigned several of his workers to the job.

“A lot of these (servicemen and women) coming back today get overlooked. Once they get back into civilian life, they're pretty much on their own,” Klippa, 40, said. “I never (served) for my country so I thought this is a good way to give back.”

Several area Marines, both active and retired, volunteered their time.

Retired Sgt. Major Sam Zurzolo, 73, of Butler said it was an honor to help. He spent most of Wednesday digging a trench in the front yard to lay electric lines.

Zurzolo was part of an honor guard Friday that raised an American flag on a newly installed flagpole.

“Marines ­— they take care of each other. They're a band of brothers and sisters,” Zurzolo said. “I get chills. I'm so proud of what they're doing for this young man. Finally we're getting the opportunity to thank vets.”

Bobby Kerlik is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. He can be reached at 412-320-7886 or bkerlik@tribweb.com.

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